The Persuader, aka: Beetle, Mallet, Hammer

In honor of naming our blog, we wanted to post about The Beetle. No, we’re not talking insects. We’re talking about the giant wooden hammer that appears at every raising.

Beetle wooden malletWe have several beetle mallets around the shop all weighing in between 20 to 30 pounds, sized around 12″ x 12″ x 6″. This is one serious hammer (or mallet, whatever you prefer). A vital tool, beetles are used to help seat joinery together, shift posts or beams, and on occasion drive in pegs. The beetle has various names throughout the timber frame industry, most commonly the “persuader” or the “commander”.

(At my very first raising I was asked to pass the persuader over. Once I knew what ‘the persuader’ was, I reached for the handle with confidence and pulled. I was astonished when it barely moved. It was an oak beetle, weighing about 35 pounds, which is reasonable…if you’re expecting the weight of it. I was saved from a second effort by a nearby timber framer who hefted it up easily and handed it over.)

master timber framer with beetle

Master timber framer Mike Gullace makes handling the beetle look easy from the ground or on a timber. Notice the angle on the end of the beetle head? Part of crafting a custom beetle is in the details and some feel the angle cut helps achieve better weight distribution when swinging the hammer.

Swinging wooden beetle mallet

It takes a good bit of muscle to swing the beetle as Will demonstrates during a west coast raising. This view also shows the how the handle is driven through the head of the mallet for a friction fit, much like a pickaxe.

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Video: The Vermont Street Project

Jonathan & Maxine were interviewed by AOL Real Estate after hearing The Vermont Street Project had won Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s Home of the Year in the Houses 2011 issue. Filmed about a year ago, we still take our hats off to the production team for capturing their story so well. Enjoy the video!

Timber Frame Porches

This is the season of The Porch. I don’t think I’ve met a person that doesn’t enjoy relaxing on the porch. Porches are a bridge between inside and outside. They’re also a great way to add space to your home without a huge investment. Check out how much they can change the look of a home:

lakeside timber porches

Before and after. This cottage home’s lakeside facade is totally different thanks to quad post porches connected by a huge deck.

More good news: crafting a porch with timbers increases longevity of the structure. (They also give the space unmatched aesthetics.) Timber is versatile and can work with large decks and removable screens to modest cement pads as post and beam supported roof structures. Summer, Spring, Fall, and even “Winter” in some regions, these spaces act as extra rooms and get us all outside.

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Keep Your Exterior Timbers Beautiful

Hammerbeam reclaimed timber trussAs with most wood products that live outside, exterior trusses, porches, and ‘trimber’ will require a little maintenance every few years to keep them looking great. When we first install exterior (or interior) timber it is coated with an oil based finish. Over time, exposure to the elements, air pollution, natural pollens, dust, and more wear the oil away and tints the wood a grey or pale beige tone. In some locations this can take five years; in others, two years; still in others a year or less. In our case we went a little over four years before cleaning and re-finishing the timber frame porches that are the main entrances to our Farmington, New York office.

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